mercredi 5 août 2015

"Rip in reality: Franco seeps through"?

The following is a collated response to the online article:
"Franco's Face" by Andrew Giles, published on Bella Caledonia 

Just how close to the surface Francoism remains in Spain is clearly a matter of grave concern. However, one wonders if Real Jaén’s “La camesita de Nuno” video is more than a tasteless attempt to turn controversy into cash. It doesn’t recycle the Franco image as such, but opportunistically tries to make a marketable one-liner joke out of Nuno’s faux pas.
The moral questions raised do bring to mind somewhat the controversial adverts of Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani, most famously those for United Colours of Benetton, which depicted, for example, Death Row inmates. Toscani shrugged off the flak, saying “All I’ve done is put a news photo in the ad pages”. But it is fairly evident that he was hitching a ride on volatile social issues in order to sell jerseys. He obviously did hold strong taboo-flouting views himself, but nonetheless the knack was to identify and surf the wave of prevailing opinion. Maybe the Real Jaén marketing people were (sub)consciously influenced by Toscani’s approach? Toscani worked for a while with Andy Warhol, whose own “Car Crash” photograph/ screenprint series also provide a morally queezy antecedent.

Returning to the Franco image, a curious coincidence is that it was Oliviero Toscani’s photojournalist father (Fedele Toscani) who took the famous photo (which appeared in Corriere della Sera) of executed Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, hanging by his heels in a Milan square.

Your (Andrew Giles) viscerally evocative: “something like a rip or tear in reality that allows Franco to seep through” of course begs the age-old question: “What is REALITY and how can we know it?”

The pop-art movement of the late 1950s/ 1960s signalled a move of consciousness from “natural” world to “urban” world, from primary to secondary engagement with reality. By the latter, I mean there began an artistic preoccupation with, and celebration of, found illustrative ephemera – ie machine-reproduced imagery from comics, magazines, billboard hoardings, movies, tv etc. The pop artist pragmatically accepted this (often anonymous) commercially-generated material as de facto “everyday reality”, going on to playfully and accessibly re-mediate it to the public.
To pick up on Warhol again, he claimed he wanted to be a machine. Hence, the mechanistic repetitiveness of his screenprints, intentionally imposing equally mindless banality on soup-cans, Marilyn Munro, car crashes, electric chairs etc. Arguably, there was no reality behind the image. There was for him no “real” Marilyn to seep through any “rip or tear” in the mechanistic sequence.

Jumping forward to the ubiquity of computers and the 24-hour multimedia internet world. A generation grows up having substantially processed daily existence from within a lifelong electronic bubble. Almost everything “known” has been pre-edited and pre-filtered via technology by “another”. The question might well be posed: How, for this generation, can “reality” be validated? Indeed I wonder how many would even understand that question in the sense that your article asks it.

Insofar as “reality” is accumulated experience of incoming data, Franco has now BECOME an image. As has Hitler. As has Stalin. As has Marilyn Munro. William Wallace of course looks like Mel Gibson. Abraham Lincoln like Daniel Day-Lewis (or in his “vampire hunter” guise, like Benjamin Walker). The outrageous license taken by Hollywood scriptwriters has BECOME the history, or at least the most widely internalised version of it. How many seek to tear through the glossy imagery in search of another “truer” reality? That project requires four convictions: a) there IS such a “reality”; b) it is discoverable; c) it is worth the effort to find it; d) it makes a blind bit of difference to anything anyway.

We are talking of course of the mugging of traditional “modernist” reality by a more subjectivist “post-modernism”.

I have an interest in the thinking of the late Dutch philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd (1894-1977). In Dooyeweerd’s analysis of the modern Western worldview he detects an internal dichotomy between an assertion of universally valid, cause-and-effect, Mechanistic Law, and an equal assertion of ultimately lawless Free Personality. It seems to me his critique is given a good deal of credence by the “robot versus human” type conflicts of movies such as Terminator, The Matrix, Battlestar Galactica, Ex Machina etc.

Postmodernism could thus be read as a shift away from an espoused “reality” of universal law (the “grand narrative” polarity), and towards an espoused “reality” of transient provisional consensus (“personal freedom” polarity). As has been recently insisted by more than one person on another Bella Caledonia thread, no “ideological” or “religious” descriptions of “reality” are now acceptable. Of course the statement “There is no Big Story” would seem to be a self-refuting universal claim. But maybe it’s just me…

Postmodernism is thus characterised by provisionality, skepticism, eclecticism, self-parody (lest one be accused of “exclusivist” dogma). Postmodernist “reality” can only be a tentative, pick and mix, flux and fusion, culturally inclusive, affair.

In terms of imagery, exploring reality is now consequently rather like “décollage”. Tearing through one poster just reveals another poster, and another. Ultimately, perhaps, though unlikely, it reveals a brick wall. We can see this kind of inconclusive (but certainly entertaining) interrogation of “reality” manifest in films like “Matrix” (again), “Inception”, “Source Code”, “Fight Club” etc.

I heard Will Self on Radio 3 explain that his latest novel did not have a “narrator” or a “beginning, middle, and end” because these features belonged to the now-redundant Christian worldview. It all struck me as wonderfully funny. ("Even Joyce's Ulysses had punctuation...", the interviewer teased.)

I have now written far too much here. But I do want to try to bring all this to bear briefly on the nature of Fascism itself. In the aftermath of the Nazi occupation of Holland, Dooyeweerd determined to seek out the philosophical taproot of National Socialism. He wrote:
“Today we live under the dominion of an idolatrous view of reality that absolutizes the historical aspect of creation. It calls itself dynamic, believing that all of reality moves and unfolds historically. It directs its polemic against static views that adhere to fixed truths. It considers reality one-sidedly in the light of historical becoming and development, arguing that everything is purely historical in character. This “historicism,” as it is called, knows of no eternal values. All of life is caught up in the stream of historical development […] We will do well to keep the affinity beween National Socialism and the Historical School in mind, for later we shall see that Nazism must in essence be considered a degenerate fruit of the historicism propagated by the Historical School.” (Roots of Western Culture: Pagan, Secular, and Christian Options, Paideia Press 2012, pp 43, 53)
Dooyeweerd saw that Nazism in its totalitarianism recognized no law (eg no international law, no divine law, no moral law) above itself. It followed only the “Destiny of the German People [“Schicksal des deutschen Volkes”]. I have not come across any mention of Franco by Dooyeweerd, but he does distinguish German Fascism from Italian Fascism by saying that the former was Volk-based (“blood-and-soil” [rather than “national” as such]), while the latter was State-based (evoking Eternal Rome).
Perhaps the merciful fact is that even should we have the misfortune to wake up in the Spanish Civil-War past we would discover that the original Franco himself was not ultimate reality, but (as Picasso so graphically caricatured him), a gross flesh-and-blood distortion of “reality”. Or maybe on second thoughts that last sentence is just a ridiculous attempt by me to be clever. A bullet in the head would surely be a sufficient encounter with reality for most of us.

Pablo Neruda

PREGUNTARÉIS: Y dónde están las lilas?
Y la metafísica cubierta de amapolas?
Y la lluvia que a menudo golpeaba
sus palabras llenándolas
de agujeros y pájaros?

Os voy a contar todo lo que me pasa.

Yo vivía en un barrio 
de Madrid, con campanas, 
con relojes, con árboles.

Desde allí se veía 
el rostro seco de Castilla 
como un océano de cuero.
                                      Mi casa era llamada
la casa de las flores, porque por todas partes 
estallaban geranios: era
una bella casa
con perros y chiquillos.
                                                        Raúl, te acuerdas?
Te acuerdas, Rafael?
                               Federico, te acuerdas
debajo de la tierra,
te acuerdas de mi casa con balcones en donde
la luz de junio ahogaba flores en tu boca?
                                                   Hermano, hermano!
eran grandes voces, sal de mercaderías, 
aglomeraciones de pan palpitante, 
mercados de mi barrio de Argüelles con su estatua 
como un tintero pálido entre las merluzas:
el aceite llegaba a las cucharas,
un profundo latido
de pies y manos llenaba las calles, 
metros, litros, esencia
aguda de la vida,
                        pescados hacinados,
contextura de techos con sol frío en el cual
la flecha se fatiga,
delirante marfil fino de las patatas, 
tomates repetidos hasta el mar.

Y una mañana todo estaba ardiendo
y una mañana las hogueras
salían de la tierra
devorando seres,
y desde entonces fuego,
pólvora desde entonces, 
y desde entonces sangre.
Bandidos con aviones y con moros,
bandidos con sortijas y duquesas, 
bandidos con frailes negros bendiciendo 
venían por el cielo a matar niños,
y por las calles la sangre de los niños 
corría simplemente, como sangre de niños.

Chacales que el chacal rechazaría, 
piedras que el cardo seco mordería escupiendo, 
víboras que las víboras odiaran!

Frente a vosotros he visto la sangre 
de España levantarse
para ahogaros en una sola ola 
de orgullo y de cuchillos!

mirad mi casa muerta, 
mirad España rota:
pero de cada casa muerta sale metal ardiendo 
en vez de flores, 
pero de cada hueco de España 
sale España, 
pero de cada niño muerto sale un fusil con ojos, 
pero de cada crimen nacen balas 
que os hallarán un día el sitio 
del corazón.

Preguntaréis por qué su poesía 
no nos habla del sueño, de las hojas, 
de los grandes volcanes de su país natal?

Venid a ver la sangre por las calles,
venid a ver
la sangre por las calles, 
venid a ver la sangre 
por las calles!

by Pablo Neruda
(English translation by Nathaniel Tarn)

You are going to ask: and where are the lilacs?

and the poppy-petalled metaphysics?
and the rain repeatedly spattering
its words and drilling them full
of apertures and birds?
I’ll tell you all the news.
I lived in a suburb,
a suburb of Madrid, with bells,
and clocks, and trees.
From there you could look out
over Castille’s dry face:
a leather ocean.
My house was called
the house of flowers, because in every cranny
geraniums burst: it was
a good-looking house
with its dogs and children.
Remember, Raul?
Eh, Rafel?
Federico, do you remember
from under the ground
my balconies on which
the light of June drowned flowers in your mouth?
Brother, my brother!
loud with big voices, the salt of merchandises,
pile-ups of palpitating bread,
the stalls of my suburb of Arguelles with its statue
like a drained inkwell in a swirl of hake:
oil flowed into spoons,
a deep baying
of feet and hands swelled in the streets,
metres, litres, the sharp
measure of life,
stacked-up fish,
the texture of roofs with a cold sun in which
the weather vane falters,
the fine, frenzied ivory of potatoes,
wave on wave of tomatoes rolling down the sea.
And one morning all that was burning,
one morning the bonfires
leapt out of the earth
devouring human beings —
and from then on fire,
gunpowder from then on,
and from then on blood.
Bandits with planes and Moors,
bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,
bandits with black friars spattering blessings
came through the sky to kill children
and the blood of children ran through the streets
without fuss, like children’s blood.
Jackals that the jackals would despise,
stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,
vipers that the vipers would abominate!
Face to face with you I have seen the blood
of Spain tower like a tide
to drown you in one wave
of pride and knives!
see my dead house,
look at broken Spain:
from every house burning metal flows
instead of flowers,
from every socket of Spain
Spain emerges
and from every dead child a rifle with eyes,
and from every crime bullets are born
which will one day find
the bull’s eye of your hearts.
And you’ll ask: why doesn’t his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land?
Come and see the blood in the streets,
come and see
the blood in the streets,
come and see the blood
in the streets!
[English translation by Nathaniel Tarn (American poet, essayist, translator, and editor) in Selected Poems: A Bilingual Edition, by Pablo Neruda. London, Cape, 1970.]

Le Pablo Neruda
(Eadar-theangaichte le F. MacFhionnlaigh)

Bidh a' cheist agaibh: Càite bheil na liathchòrcran?
Agus a' mheatafiosaig loma-làn de chrom-lusan?
Agus an t-uisge a spairteas fhaclan
gan tur-lìonadh le tuill agus le eòin?

Innsidh mi dhuibh gach uile nì a thachair.
Bha mi còmhnaidh ann an iomall baile Mhadrid 
còmhla ri gleocaichean is cluig is craobhan.

Bhon siod chìteadh 
aodann tioram Chastilla
mar mhuir leathair.     
                  Is e taigh nam blàth
a chanadh iad rim thaigh-sa, oir às gach cùil
spreadh geiréiniaman: is e
taigh snog a bh'ann
le coin is cloinn,
                                                        A Raùil, eil cuimhnead?
Cuimhnead, a Rafaeil?
                               A Fhederico, a bheil cuimhn' agadsa
is tu fon talamh,
cuimhne air mo thaigh le for-uinneagan far
am bàthadh solas an Ògmhios blàthan nad bheul?
                               A bhràthair, a bhràthair!
Cha robh ann
ach guthan àrda, salann marsantachd,
cruachan measgte de dh'aran plosgartach,
margaidhean m' iomall de Arguelles le ìomhaigh
mar sheas-dubh glas-neulach fo smùid na mara:
an ola cur thairis air a chuid spàinean ladarna,
frith-bhualadh domhainn
chasan is làmhan a' lìonadh nan sràid,
meatairean is liotairean, brìgh
gheur na beatha,
                         èisg laghach air an càrnadh,
co-inneach mhullaichean fo ghrèin fhuair anns am bi
an gath-sìde a' fàs sgìth,
màrmor grinn air mhire a' bhuntàta,
a lìon tomàto is tomàto chun na mara.

Agus madainn a bha seo cha robh ann ach lasraichean
agus madainn a bha seo siod tùrlaichean
a' leum às an talamh
gus daoine a shlugadh,
agus bho sin a-mach teine
a' bhuidealaich bho sin a-mach,
agus bho sin a-mach fuil.

Slaightearan le itealain is eich,
slaightearan le fàinnean is bana-diùcan,
slaightearan le sagartan dubha beannachadh
thàinig iad tro na speuran a chur às do chloinn,
agus tro na sràidean siod fuil na cloinne
a' ruith gu sìmplidh, mar fhuil chloinne.

Seacalan air an dèanadh seacal tàir,
clachan nach teumadh cluaran gun smugaid,
viopairean a chuireadh gràin air viopairean!

Fa ur comhair chì mi fuil
na Spàinne càrnadh an-àirde
gus ur bàthadh le aon tonn a-mhàin
de dh'àrdan is sginean!

A sheanailearan
seallaibh air mo thaigh marbh,
seallaibh air an Spàinn mhillte:
ach às gach taigh marbh thig meatailt loisgeach
an àite fhlùraichean,
ach às gach leanabh marbh thig isneach le sùilean,
ach às gach eucoir beirear peilearan
a lorgas là air choireigin 
cuspair ur cridhe.

Theid fhaighneachd carson nach ann a-mach air
aislingean agus duilleagan a tha a chuid bàrdachd,
agus air beanntan-teine tìr a bhreithe?

Thigibh is faicibh an fhuil anns na sràidean,
thigibh is faicibh 
an fhuil anns na sràidean,
thigibh is faicibh an fhuil 
anns na sràidean!
(Eadar-theangaichte dhan Ghàidhlig le Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh 2015)